Toys shopping can demand a lot of time and while most parents worry about choosing among a long list of potential toys, some parents hope to find just one or two toys that will make their child’s face light up with joy.
Parents of children with special needs often struggle with buying toys. We know the feeling pretty well. Our daughter has severe intellectual disability and autism and “she is hard to shop for”. And we can get stressed about the holidays. Each year we get better at finding toys that Mitra will enjoy, but sometimes we still worry whether gifts will be more of a disappointment than a delight.
Finding a right toy
Playing is more than fun and games or a way to pass time. According to Lekotek, an organization dedicated to providing information on toys and play for children with special needs, playing stimulates the senses, reduces stress, builds esteem, encourages interaction and is a great way for children to learn new skills and push beyond their limits.
Play is the language of children and it is important keep toys simple within the range of a child’s developmental and physical abilities. Those in search of a gift should not underestimate the appeal of toys that don’t have a lot of bells and whistles: blocks, dolls, Crayons and balls encourage imaginative and expressive play.
It is important not to forget that some children learn through tactile stimulation. Rather than getting an ordinary ball, get a spiny ball or search for toys made of fabrics and materials that offer a variety of textures.
When choosing a gift, take into consideration the child’s needs, abilities and, especially, their interests. If a child needs to strengthen one of their hands, it is best to choose a toy that the child needs to use both hands with. For a child interested in music, that might be an accordion or a play piano that requires both hands, for example.
Toy Buying Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs
National Lekotek Center compiled the following questions to ask yourself when choosing developmentally appropriate toys for kids with special needs.
Does the toy respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?
Method of Activation
Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required to activate?
Places the Toy Will Be Used
Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home? Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?
Opportunities for Success
Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child’s individual style, ability and pace?
Is it a toy that will help the child with special needs feel like ”any other kid”? Does it tie in with other activities – like books and art sets – that promote other forms of play?
Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness and making choices? Will it give the child experience with a variety of mixed media?
Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed and level of difficulty?
Child’s Individual Abilities
Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child’s interests and age?
Safety and Durability
Does the toy fit with the child’s size and strength? Does it have moisture resistance? Are the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Can it be washed and cleaned?
Potential for Interaction
Will the child be an active participant during use? Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?
There are lot of online and offline shops that provide toys for children with special needs. Shopping at the right shop can be very helpful for the parents to save time and it will help them to choose the right toys! I am planing to start a new web shop here in Norway to make the life easier for parents and their children.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments.